Second graders at The Learning Center Charter School engineer, build, test, design and troubleshoot every day. Why? Because STEM education extends to every student at the school no matter the age.
Second grade teacher, Stephanie Hopper, engages her 7 and 8 year old students with STEM projects regularly. This fall she will have her students build pumpkin wagons, design scarecrows with specific construction standards that the students must meet, and engineer “turkey hideouts” to avoid the Thanksgiving table. The activities are seasonal but also fit squarely into the school’s STEM approach to education.
STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math. Our school takes it a step further by including entrepreneurship, arts and agriculture – E-STEAM.
Mary Jo Dyre, Executive Director, says, “Cultivating an E-STEAM culture is the guiding philosophy for our school and within that we offer an amazing array of learning opportunities for our students – each and every student from kindergarten through eighth grade.”
The STEM activities that Hopper integrates into her everyday lessons are a prime example of that approach. “My students plan, design, engineer, test, and reconstruct each and every day. It’s just what we do.” Hopper adds that no student is too young to be introduced and challenged by this approach. “I’m always encouraging them to expand and improve upon a design. I ask how they can make it better, wider, taller, or hold more weight. The students always rise to the challenge too,” said Hopper.
Check out the awesome sampling of electives offered to fifth through eighth grade students this semester!
ARTrageous: Drama students will be putting on The Learning Center’s 3rd Annual ARTrageous event this semester. This year we will be presenting drama and art focusing on the 50th anniversary of the NC Arts Program. The Drama will be centered on culture from North Carolina and writers from the state. The students will take our annual field trip to Young Harris College’s Children’s Theatre Production, play LOTS of games, laugh a great amount, and learn the basics of drama. This is not a prerequisite for the Spring Musical, anyone interested is welcome! Instructors: Ryan Bender, Judy Coleman
Aquaponics: The original system, in the pit, is up and running. The fish tank has about 350 fish of varying sizes; anywhere from 1” to 4” in length. If you’ve walked by the system lately, you will have seen the system is operating as it should and many plants are growing quite well.
At the end of last year we were ready to expand and move into a new area near the black shed. A number of interesting developments have occurred over the summer, and we now have the opportunity to expand even more. Therefore we will focus a majority of our efforts on designing and building a new system. In addition, we will continue to monitor and maintain the existing system. Instructor: Bill Coleman
Campus Creativity: This elective will have students working outdoors around campus to add creativity in different places. Projects include creating some simple outdoor science centers, helping in gardens, labeling plants/trees along the trails, and more. (Limit: 10 students) Instructor: Kathleen Shook
Furniture Flip: In the furniture flip elective, we will be taking old donated furniture pieces and creating new usable pieces to sell. As we create these new pieces, we will learn proper safety and use of power tools. Students in this elective will be required to have safety glasses as well as old clothes for painting. Since we will be using power tools, this group must be well behaved and self motivated. (Limit: 8 students) Instructor: Shelley Dockery
Muggle Quidditch: Quidditch is back this fall! Have you ever wanted to join the world of Harry Potter? Would you like to play 5 sports and one time? If so, then this elective is for you. The elective will involve rigorous physical activity while on a broom. Students in this elective must be able to follow directions and safety protocol. We will take enough kids to have 2 teams that will eventually compete against each other. Muggles are you ready for the fierce battle ahead? (Limit: 20 students) Cost: $1 Instructors: Jessie Adams and Cheryl Catuto
Tech Ed: The Tech Ed course will be covering a diverse range of tech-based and engineering-based activities including the following: Making/Building, Engineering Basics, Repurposing old tech, 3D Printing, Coding, Sensors, Robotics, and whatever other crazy things we can come up with. Class usually involves research skills and discovery-based learning. It has the potential of involving local businesses and other cool stuff too. (Limit: 10 students) Cost $10 Instructor: Franklin Shook
Performance Choral Ensemble: Join Ms. G and Ms. Monica for a fun and energetic Performance Choral Ensemble. You will receive voice training in your choral part, learn
simple choreography, and learn to use rhythmic instruments. You will learn a variety of songs from popular music to traditional show tunes. You will have input in choosing songs. You will perform at school and have community performance opportunities.Instructor: Nancy Gardner & Monica Matthews
Personal Conditioning: We will focus on strength and condition training, setting personal fitness goals, enhancing specific skills and techniques and feeling confident in your physical abilities. Students can customize their own physical fitness plan to achieve their individualized goals. The overall idea is to maximize your overall potential. (Limit: 10 students) Instructor: Sean Bain
Beginning Quilting: In this elective you will learn how to use a sewing machine, the required tools needed to create a quilt, learn a brief history and the art of quilting. You will also be able to piece a creation of your choice. Students are also able to bring their own sewing machine to this elective. (Limit: 4 students) Cost: $5 plus Materials for your individual project;, shopping list will be given when project is determined. Instructor: Cheryl Kirby
Ms. Emily, Elementary Science and Outdoor Learning Coordinator, and Ms. Katie, First Grade Teacher, collaborate to bring education alive by tying in nature to lessons as well as providing students an education in the greatest classroom of all- the great outdoors.
Recently, the teachers had the first grade students flexing their engineering muscles by beginning construction for miniature fairy houses.
While in the woods of The Outdoor Learning Center so many exciting discoveries happen. Students find interesting animals like slugs, caterpillars. They find peculiar mushrooms and toadstools. They inspect the variety of textures of bark, sticks, leaves and roots. They compare and contrast and become enchanted with their experiences developing the story of their fairies needs and housing.
Press “play” below to watch how excited one student is about his work!
Ms. Emily and Ms. Katie were so impressed at how quickly this class adapted to independently working in the woods!
Before school let out for summer break, first graders learned about using natural resources to make toys. They upcycled cloth and yarn and combined it with sticks gathered in The Outdoor Learning Center (TOLC.) Students sawed and carved the sticks to make gnomes. They learned about diversity by being exposed to the different mythical creatures of the wood- fairies gnomes and trolls. The students had a wonderful time and were assisted by Ms. Katie and parent visitor Ms Tina
Earlier this spring, fifth grade students learned about biomes and had to recreate a biome of their choice.
They did these at home while the class worked on a PBL project (Project Based Learning) on Ecosystems in the classroom. Some students chose biomes based on what they worked on in class, while others created something completely different.
They had to include five animals, from carnivore to decomposers, three plants, and were encouraged to be as creative as possible.
The GrowZone Players are our troupe of actors. Students in 5th-8th grades have the opportunity each year to choose the drama elective and, as such, audition for roles in the annual fall one-act play and the spring musical.
In Oh, Horrors! It’s Murder!, the Hamilton museum opened an exhibit entitled, “Monsters, Murderers, and Madmen.” Professor Johann Vanderveer invited world renowned Egyptologist Dirk Carlton to speak about his recent trip to Egypt and the discoveries he made concerning the ancient Tomb of Menkaura. However, during the presentation, something went awry and someone ended up dead. It was up to Lt. Dani Morrow to crack the case.
This play was appropriate for all ages with hilarious comedy and toe-tapping songs throughout. Some audience members even got a chance to accuse characters in an attempt to discover the truth.
In addition to the perplexing mystery, there was a live exhibit from the display of Monsters, Murderers, and Madmen both before the show and during the intermission. At intermission of the Friday, May 4th show, North Carolina Poet Laureate, Shelby Stephenson, read some of his poetry and sang a few songs.
The musical was laugh-out-loud funny, well performed and pure entertainment for all in attendance.
The ever growing and changing list of members of our GrowZone Player troupe never cease to amaze audiences with their performances. They manage to take a script and bring it to life in a skilled and professional manner far exceeding their individual ages.
Be sure to take every opportunity to see the GrowZone Players’ productions. They are not to be missed!
Second grade teacher at The Learning Center Charter School, Stephanie Hopper, wrapped up a cross curricular unit on insects with her class earlier this month. Found online, Eddie the Entomologist sent the class friendly letters each day that included clues. Using the clues, the students then guessed what creature was the bug of the day.
Hopper was able to bridge the study of insects across all subjects in her class. In science, students learned about insect life cycles. Numerous books and interactive online reading texts were used by students for research and reading comprehension. Plus, the daily letters from Eddie allowed the class to review and reinforce what they had previously learned about the composition of friendly letters.
In math, students used measurement standards to compare different types of insects as well as jumping distances. Additionally, students put their STEM skills to use when tasked with designing and building their own insects.
Plus, these industrious second grade students wrote acrostic poems using descriptive words to describe insects, wrote a sequence paper on the life cycle of an insect, made terrariums with appropriate habitats for insects to live and did a drawing activity where they were guided, step-by-step to draw, label and color a realistic bumble bee and butterfly.
At the end of the all encompassing insect unit, students earned an “Entomologist Expert” badge from Eddie.
Hopper said, “These students could hardly wait each day to read the letter from Eddie and use the clues to figure out the bug of the day. Using their excitement about bugs across all of our studies engaged them thoroughly in each subject.”
On April 6th, third graders at The Learning Center Charter School held their own Poetry Lounge. Modeled after poetry readings where an open mic is available for anyone wanting to share original or dramatic readings of poems, the class enthusiastically enjoyed the event.
Students were given the option of performing a poem that they wrote themselves or read a poem of their choosing. Topics ranged from wolves to dirt bikes, love poems, poems about video games, and concrete poems.
Third grade teacher, Kathleen Shook, introduced the Poetry Lounge idea as a way to reinforce lessons learned in language arts. However, she found ways to incorporate poetry both in math and art class. Plus, students got valuable practice in listening skills while their peers performed.
True to standard poetry reading etiquette, the class ended each performance with the classic “snapping” applause. The piece receiving the most “snaps” was probably Shel Silverstein’s self-performed version of “The Crocodile’s Toothache.”
Shook said, “Poetry is magical in that it has the power to make even the most reluctant reader become interested in reading. The sing-song beats and humorous themes turn words into games instead of work.”
Graced with the presence of poets, so it was at the opening night of Oh Horror! It’s Murder at The Learning Center Charter School on May 4. That’s because North Carolina Poet Laureate, Shelby Stephenson, attended and provided intermission entertainment.
Stephenson grew up on a farm in Benson, North Carolina and says that most of his poems are a product of that environment. He has written many poems about the farm, the foxhounds his father hunted and the streams, fields and trees of his childhood home. He graduated from the University of North Carolina and went on to study law at University of Pittsburgh and University of Wisconsin-Madison. In 2001, the state of North Carolina awarded him the NC Award in Literature. He has gone on to receive the Bellday Poetry Prize, the Oscar Arnold Young Award, the Zoe Kincaid-Brockman Award, the Brockman-Campbell Award, the Bright Hill Press Chapbook Prize, and the Playwright’s Fund of North Carolina Chapbook Prize.
He has also produced a poetic documentary titled, Plankhouse as well as numerous books of poems including Middle Creek Poems, Carolina Shout!, The Persimmon Tree and Possum. He and his wife, Linda, have also recorded four musical CDs.
Mary Ricketson and Joan Howard with Ridgeline Literary Alliance and North Carolina Writers Network-WEST accompanied Stephenson to the annual spring musical at the charter school.
Stephenson shared with the school’s Executive Director that during this year marking the 50th Anniversary of the North Carolina Arts Council, what a pleasure it was to see firsthand that the arts are alive and well in the far west at The Learning Center Charter School.
The school will host Stephenson on its campus again in the fall as a guest assembly presenter.